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Friendship Secrets

I’m not quite sure I know what to make of an essay in the New York Times titled Grieving My Patient’s Friend by Galit Atlas, a therapist.

A friend of mine, who knows of my work on the loss of best friends, sent me the article. As I read the post about Isabella, a woman dying of cancer, and the impact her loss had on her best friend Naomi (the therapist’s patient) and on the therapist as well, I choked up. The words that really struck me were those said by Naomi to the therapist. “I lost Isabella. She will never come back,” said Naomi. The finality of that statement gripped me. While I certainly don’t expect my best friend Madeleine, who died thirteen years ago, to return or my Dad for that matter who died when I was 13, still the finality of the word never felt like a harsh blow.

As I read on the essay moved into surprising territory. A new patient comes to see the therapist. He is also grieving a loss and, as it turns out, it is for the same woman – Isabella. Only she is his lover. I was unprepared for that twist, but after pondering it for a while it reminded me that everyone has secrets. Often best friends share those secrets, even if they don’t tell anyone else. Now I can’t help wondering if Naomi knew about Isabella’s secret and if she didn’t, how would she feel to find out about it now.

So I’m wondering, do you share all your secrets with your best friend? Do you hold any back, even from her?

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  1. I don’t remember if I kept secrets from my friend Rosemary but I know a secret she kept from me. In the mid-80s she ended up in the hospital and her sister told me it was a suicide attempt. Fast forward to 2009 and she had told me that she was back in therapy and starting an anti-depressant but she didn’t tell me she was suicidal. Could I have changed the course of our history had she told me? I like to think yes.

  2. Ellen Pearlman says:

    It’s so hard to know whether you could have had an impact on her if she had told you she was suicidal, but she was in therapy and even the therapist couldn’t help her, so it is unlikely you could have.

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